James Hamilton, Jr.

23rd Governor of the State of South Carolina 1830 to 1832

Date Born: May 8, 1786

Date Died: November 15, 1857

Place Born: Charleston, SC

Place Buried: Gulf of Mexico

Residence: Charleston, SC

Occupation: Planter, Lawyer, Major in US Army


Studied law in Charleston, SC

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1819-1822

US House of Representatives: 1822-1829

South Carolina Governor: 1830-1832

South Carolina Senate: 1834-1838

Hamilton declined an offer from President Andrew Jackson to become United States Secretary of War

Hamilton helped found the Southern Quarterly Review

The Republic of Texas honored Hamilton with the title "perpetual citizen of the Republic of Texas" in 1835

Hamilton died in a shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico in 1857


James Hamilton, Jr. was born on May 8, 1786 in Charleston, SC at Rice Hope Plantation, the son of James and Elizabeth (Lynch) Hamilton, both of the lowcountry planter elite. His mother was the daughter of Congressman Thomas Lynch and sister of Thomas Lynch, Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence.

His parents sent him to preparatory schools in New England. He then studied in Newport, Rhode Island, and Dedham, Massachusetts, before returning to Charleston. In the city he read law under prominent attorneys Daniel Huger and William Drayton. Hamilton passed the South Carolina bar around 1810 and went into practice in Drayton's office.

On November 15, 1813, James Hamilton, Jr. married Elizabeth Mathews Heyward, daughter of wealthy low- country planter Daniel Heyward and Ann Sarah (Trezevant) Heyward. Her paternal grandfather was Thomas Heyward, Jr., a South Carolinian who served in the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence. She brought three plantations and approximately 200 slaves to the marriage. The couple had eleven children, ten sons and one daughter.

Bored with his chosen profession, James Hamilton accepted the position of Secretary to Gov. Henry Middleton around 1811. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Hamilton was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant of Rifles in the U.S. Army on June 5, 1812. He was transferred to the 18th Infantry Regiment on August 12, 1818, and he was the Regimental Adjutant from September of 1812 until March of 1813. Promoted to Captain on March 13, 1818, and later to Major, he served on the Canadian frontier. He was Deputy Inspector General on the staff of Gen. George Izard from November 22, 1814 until his honorable discharge on June 15, 1815. He returned to South Carolina to pursue widespread business and political interests.

In 1815, James Hamilton, Jr. made his home at Callawassie, a sea island cotton plantation on the Colleton River in the Beaufort District. Turning once again to law, he became a partner of James Louis Petigru, and moved to Charleston in 1819.The partnership dissolved in 1823.

In 1819, James Hamilton, Jr. was first elected in a special election to represent St. Philip's & St. Michael's Parish in the House of Representatives of the:
- 23rd General Assembly that met from 1818-1819, replaced Robert Young Hayne on 11/22/1819
- 24th General Assembly that met from 1820-1821
- 25th General Assembly that met from 1822-1823

While in the latter assembly, James Hamilton, Jr. was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the unexpired term of William Lowndes who resigned on May 8, 1822. Hamilton was elected in December of 1822 and took his seat on January 6, 1823 in the 17th Congress. He was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 18th, 19th, and 20th Congresses. He left at then of his last term on March 3, 1829.

On December 9, 1830, he was elected as the next governor of South Carolina, and he served for two years. During his tenure, he successfully pushed for federal tariff reform, and after passage of the tariff of 1832, he convened the Nullification Convention of November 19-24, 1832. He served as a delegate from St. Peter's Parish and was President of the Convention which passed the Ordinance of Nullification.

After leaving office, he turned over the convention to Robert Young Hayne then became a Brigadier General of a special militia force created in preparation of federal intervention. In an effort to test the constitutionality of the tariff, he imported Cuban sugar and planned to store in in a Charleston warehouse without paying duties. However, President Andrew Jackson outmaneuvered him by storing that sugar in Castle Pinckney until "Sugar Jimmy," as he was consequently nicknamed, was forced to pay the tariff. Although an avid advocate of nullification, he did not desire disunion. Therefore, he encouraged and approved the compromise which ultimately enabled both sides to retreat.

In 1834, he was first elected to represent St. Philip & St. Michael's Parish in the SC Senate of the:
- 31st General Assembly that met from 1834-1835
- 32nd General Assembly that met from 1836-1838

He also held many other public posts and leadership positions in industry.

Extremely interested in the settlement of Texas, James Hamilton, Jr. spent most of his last twenty years of his life in pursuit of that goal. He soon accepted an offer of perpetual citizenship and a diplomatic mission to Europe representing the republic. He traveled to Europe in 1839 and 1840 to obtain recognition for Texas from Great Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Initially, he was against the annexation of Texas by the United States, but in the mid-1840s he changed his position.

In 1857, he was nominated to fill the unexpired term of Andrew Pickens Butler, the recently deceased U.S. Senator from South Carolina. However, he died before the nomination could be placed before the state legislature.

He drowned at sea on November 15, 1857, when his ship the Opelousas, collided with another vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. His body was never found.


Hamilton, James, Jr., a Representative from South Carolina; born in Charleston, SC, May 8, 1786; completed academic studies; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Charleston; served in the War of 1812 as major; mayor of Charleston; member of the State House of Representatives, 1819-1823; elected as a Republican to the 17th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of William Lowndes; elected as a Jackson Republican to the 18th Congress, and re-elected as a Jacksonian to the 19th and 20th Congresses, and served from December 13, 1822, to March 3, 1829; chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (18th through 20th Congresses); Governor of South Carolina 1830-1832; moved to Texas; appointed diplomatic agent of the Republic of Texas to France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands in 1839; drowned on November 15, 1857, while on his way from New Orleans to Galveston.

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